Hudie Ledbetter was one of the giants of early American music. He was also a pawn in the game of "discovering our roots," brought to New York by the Alan and John Lomax and dressed in prison garb to capture the public's attention. Truth be told, Lead Belly earned the prison stripes - he did hard time at Angola.
This RocknRoots edition of Initiative Radio tells the Lead Belly story through his own music, and through influences (Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter) and contemporary interpreters (Dylan, Taj Mahal). We'll follow Lead Belly's life and times from the hardscrabble beginnings in Texas and Arkansas, through the prison years, then to New York, we'll listen to Van Morrison, Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Lunceford. And we'll explore the compelling journey of a man who knew a thousand songs, wrote huge hits, and left a giant footprint.
Today's show is presented by guest hosts Tom Boyd and Ann Sternberg.